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Week 1 of Mindful May

Now we have finished Art-pril, we are moving on to Mindful May. What is Mindful May. It is a way of operating and a way of doing things to reduce stress. This week we are focusing on doing one thing at a time.

To start with, we need to dispel the myth that multi-tasking is a good thing. Recent research shows that Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully. Research also shows that, in addition this can slow you down, as you need more time to refocus when you swop from one task to another.

Let’s unpick that for a minute. Going out for a walk with your friends and talking with them as we go long, like we do every month with Walking for Friendship – is a good thing. Driving and talking on the phone – is not a good thing! Listening to low level music whilst cleaning your bedroom – is a good thing. Watching the TV whilst studying – is not a good thing.

It is the combination of the tasks that effects the efficiency. If you are trying to do things that require high levels of concentration i.e. driving and holding a conversation over the phone - then you’re asking for trouble. Walking with friends requires a lot less concentration so easier to achieve. The brain and muscle memory will take over the walking bit and allow you to concentrate on the conversation. Cleaning your bedroom needs high levels of concentration, so you can sort the dirty from the clean things and remembering where you put things, so you can find them again. You don’t want to find a pair of dirty underwear in with your homework for example! So, it takes a bit of effort. Listening to music while doing it take a lot less effort, allowing the music to wash over you is a very low level activity and after a while your brain may even tune some of that music out once your focused on the cleaning.

Therefore, for this week I am setting the challenge to only do one thing at a time. Study for approximately 45 minutes say on your English and then relax so do something very different for 10 to 15 minutes. Come back to studying and do some maths.

Now, I know the research shows for some people (but not everyone) music that is soothing and relaxing can help to beat stress or anxiety while studying. Background music may even improve focus on a task by providing motivation and improving mood.

During long study sessions, music can aid endurance. Rock music, Punk Rock and Heavy Metal Rock sadly, has been shown not to be so effective.

I, personally, can’t cope with a noisy back ground when focused on learning. But if I am doing admin tasks I can have radio on low in the background. It acts more like company, having the voices quietly in the distance, which I often tune out.

We are all individuals. Accordingly, allowing music to wash over you is down to personal choice. Try it - if it works: it works. If not - turn it off.

TV, on the other hand is an absolute no, no, when learning! Sorry – current research shows it’s not possible. Your brain will be paying attention to both the sound, the changing pictures, the changes in light and dark light, the break ads and the changes of speed in the action, it is too much for the brain to tune out.

If you find yourself sidetracked by younger brothers and sisters 1) Explain to mum or/and dad nicely that you are being distracted and move to somewhere quieter. 2) Refocus your mind by breathing deeply, deep in to your tummy and say to yourself what you are doing. “I am writing a story,” “I am going to finish this bit on angles,” “My goal is to read to the end of this chapter and answer all the comprehension questions,” “I am learning this week’s spellings” and then restart.

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